I have this theory that 90% of mothering-tiny-humans-stress comes from trying to control mess. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep we try to tame everything in our lives that gets messy; meal mess, toy mess, spills mess, laundry mess, outside mess, bodily fluid mess, paperwork mess, car mess (back of the car mess- terrifying), fridge mess, clutter mess. It’s an endless list of things in this life that are messy, that get messy and require us to clean them up. Why would we intentionally create messes with our kids? For many people that fear of mess is crippling. For many people that fear of mess can hinder all sorts of exploratory play and learning. The mom part of me constantly tries to keep the mess at bay, while the art teacher in me is always encouraging my inner neat freak to remain calm and LET THEM EAT CAKE (so to speak but in this case the cake is the mess and you don’t always eat it, you follow?)
Today I promised Sally we could make something. In the world of three year olds this little phrase is beyond exciting- so many possibilities! We are constantly trying to add more fun and easy crafts for kids into or daily routines. My plan went out the window when I looked and discovered we were out of baking soda. Boo.
“We could just try it?” Sally said, taking little jars of this and that out if the cabinet.
I told Sal we could just go to target and get what we need. Please, Mom, let’s just try it now. Please?!”
Enter a strange cooked dough concoction that was as fun to make as it was to play with. We substituted baking powder for most of the baking soda in my go to cooked play dough recipe (I’ll add it at the end) and it turned into a mixture that grew and grew on the stove. We’d stir the mixture and it would go down. Leave it for a few seconds and it would bubble up and grow again. Sally thought this was fantastic. Like that could have been the end of this project.
I didn’t think this dough would come together so we added a scoop of flour. It resulted in this odd dough that was sort of wet left untouched but solidified if you squeezed it together. It was smooth and soft and mushed up into a crumble in a really satisfying way.
My instinct was to scoop this mess in the trash and call it a defeat. But Sally sat at the counter chatting with me and playing with the weird dough mixture for almost two hours. We cut up some straws to press into the dough and she played with some pasta ABC shapes in it. She baked me a birthday cake and made a fence.
The opposite of a failure, this ended up being a total success and exactly what we both needed.
Is it easy for you to make intentional messes with your kids?
Here is the real cooked play dough recipe that I like:
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup of baking soda
3/4 cups water
(you can add anything you want to this- glitter, essential oils, food coloring etc)
Mix it in a small pot then place on the stove and heat at medium low until it starts to come together. Kneed it off the heat until smooth (careful- it holds heat).
*We ended up subbing baking powder for most of the baking soda and added 1/4 cup of flour.
Love this post? Be sure to check out tons of other ideas over here: 34 easy crafts for kids.
Marianne Ignelzi says
Love that you can let them “eat cake”! As the mother of four twenty-something children I can tell you they will remember and learn more from those moments than from your controlling and trying to teach them to clean up the mess! Great job!